Loving Your OCD Spouse


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My husband is somewhere on the OCD spectrum. His tendencies don’t seem to overwhelm his life and I don’t think he ought necessarily to be on medication or under a doctor’s care (which he isn’t), but the tendencies are definitely a part of his life and, consequently, a part of mine.

His mother tells me that she noticed Brian, at age 12 or so, exhibiting classic “checking” behaviors; namely, going around checking the doors at night to make sure they were all locked. In our years of marriage, a number of patterns have become noticeable. ¬†Luckily he is not burdened with the common hand-washing obsession, nor does he seem to fear that disasters will happen if he doesn’t perform some personal ritual. But he is pretty loquacious (I never relate to those articles women write about their uncommunicative husbands!) so some of his tendencies involve talking. For example, if he has a plan for the future–whether it’s a trip out of state or a trip to buy a newspaper–he will mention it, repeatedly. Often he will ask for reassurance about some extremely minor thing that seems pointless, i.e.:

(HIM) “We’ll stop at Walmart for milk after church–is that OK?”

(ME) “Why on earth would it NOT be OK?” (…especially since I’ve already been notified about it twenty times! I think he is just obsessing about it and looking for a way to say it out loud one more time.)

It can be trying and annoying for a non-OCD partner. There are times when this excessive looking forward to events (especially big ones such as holidays and vacations) makes me wish they would hurry up and be over with, simply so I don’t have to hear about them anymore. There have been times when my own excitement about an upcoming pleasure has been beaten to death by over-discussion.

There are more trivial things. Immediately upon arriving home in the afternoon, he chooses his clothes for the following day and lays them out on a bedroom chair. This happens even if tomorrow is Saturday and he’s only going to wear khaki shorts and a T-shirt. (I think it’s kind of funny…I mean, my mom probably did that for me when I was nine.)

There are more serious things. As the partner who is not so much into planning and scheduling, who wants to wing it, do what I feel like doing and see what the day brings, I am constantly dominated–not by him, but by his tendency to have the days of our lives already filled before I even get a chance to mention my vague notions of what I’d like to do. At times I feel my life is passing by–weekdays structured by work, and weekends structured by Brian’s mental checklist.

It is very easy to make fun of him for the trivial things. It is also sometimes tempting to snarl at him about the more irritating ones, i.e.

(HIM–angrily) “If you don’t make [our son] take off his jeans and give them to me right now, they just won’t get washed tonight!”

(ME) “WHO CARES? They don’t NEED to be washed tonight! He has more than one pair! Nobody is worried about this except you!”

(…followed by a few mutterings about OCD.)

But a year or two ago, I had an epiphany about all this. Number one, I realized how cruel it was to make fun of him and ¬†criticize him for something that he cannot help. It is a deeply ingrained part of his personality and I know sometimes it causes inconvenience and maybe embarrassment even to him, but it’s just the way he is. I’m pretty sure I might have a couple of tendencies and quirks of my own that HE has to live with and yet he never puts me down for them, so he deserves the same acceptance in return. I also remembered that men crave respect above almost anything else, and this type of ridicule and criticism is the epitome of disrespect.

And number two, I thought of all the ways our family benefits from his planning, organizing, and thinking ahead.

  • We never run out of anything. EVER. When you get to the bottom of the shampoo bottle, use the last bit of aluminum foil on the roll, put the last liner in the garbage can–never fear. Replacement items have already been purchased, because he watches the levels of everything and makes a grocery list.
  • We always have reservations. When we go on a trip, we know where we are staying, how to get there, and what restaurants are nearby. He will go online and scope out the menus of places we’ve never tried, to see if we might like to experience them while we’re nearby.
  • Suddenly need something while traveling? Not a problem. Band-Aid, safety pin, whatever it is–he’s packed it.
  • All of our laundry is clean, all the time. If it is not on our backs, it is in our closets. Granted, some of this is done by me, but only due to his influence.
  • We’re never low on gas at inconvenient moments because he makes sure we fill up.
  • I never find myself without pocket money because he puts it in my wallet.
  • The bills are paid, the checkbook is balanced. DAILY.
  • Our son’s lunch account is funded, and any supplies he needs are immediately purchased.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Like all of us, Brian is fearfully and wonderfully made. Like me, he’s imperfect and sometimes annoying. But I am so grateful for all the years I’ve had him beside me, and for all the ways his need for order and stability has brought those things into my life.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 06:15:25

    Thank you for taking the time to write that. It is my hope that my husband will feel that way about me one day. I am a lot like your husband and I KNOW I am difficult to live with. I try to stop, but trying to stop only makes things more stressful. People tell me to stop, but it just makes sense to me and so why should I stop it? It’s a constant battle. I am glad you two have each other. :)


  2. Lara @ Methodical Living
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 16:53:13

    My poor husband has had to help me with a lot of my ocd tendencies. I still have a lot of the organizational and planning ones. He has helped me with some of my weird ones- like my habits with turning off the lights before bedtime and locking the car doors. But he has realized that some of my habits are actually good and he respects me of them. He’s lucky to have you! :)



  3. Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
    Oct 27, 2014 @ 21:22:23

    Thank you both, and I hope you show the post to your husbands. They’d probably be lost without you.


  4. Terri Presser
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 01:26:26

    Thank you for sharing about your husband and how you handle the situation. We have a friend with this issue and we have come to a point of accepting him for who he is and not for how he is. Blessings


  5. Terri Presser
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 01:38:40

    Thank you for sharing this at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings


  6. blessingcounterdeb
    Oct 29, 2014 @ 16:57:00

    You are spot on here Kim! Rev and I have been married for 42 years and he has many of the same OCD behaviors you mentioned. Like you, I have chosen to see the blessings in them over the frustrations. He keeps me organized, on time, and meager than I’d ever be on my own. When my friends sit around and talk about the lack of help they get from their husbands, I always feel like they should be commiserating with Rev. He makes me better and I’m so thankful!


  7. Nita
    Oct 31, 2014 @ 13:55:31

    Well it’s true that opposites do attract and I can honestly say that I’m the OCD one in my marriage. My husband is kind of fly by the seat of your pants guy. It works well as we compliment each other. Now, he’s thoroughly ruined my habit of over neatness and taught me to not ‘care’ as much if our house is in dissarray – even though when I get home from work I have mini-spaz sessions in my head that the house isn’t as clean as I’d like. In both situations, loving each other is hard to do because the differences can really shake up each person’s feeling of comfort. However, we simply need each other.


  8. passagethroughgrace
    Nov 01, 2014 @ 19:20:21

    Amen to always being prepared! :) What a blessing! I love how you discovered the good in your husband’s tendencies and embraced them as part of who he is. Blessed you linked up with The Weekend Brew!


  9. Barbie
    Nov 03, 2014 @ 05:37:49

    Thank you so much for sharing! I think I have a few of these same tendencies myself (checking doors at night, always stocking up on things in advance, I check my alarm clock about 20 times before I go to bed). This really opened my eyes to OCD tendencies.


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